ACLU files brief in Virginia's same-sex marriage ban case

Posted by Craig Jarvis on May 12, 2014 

A lot of people will be watching the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Virginia on Tuesday when it hears arguments in a same-sex marriage case that could affect North Carolina’s constitutional ban.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of seven North Carolina same-sex couples who are raising children. The ACLU is claiming that the marriage ban harms families and children – specifically, because it prevents them from having the ability to make medical decisions in an emergency, receiving Social Security Insurance survivor benefits, providing children with quality health insurance, is detrimental to their tax status and denies veterans’ benefits, among other harms.

The brief, filed April 18, notes that nine federal district courts have struck down marriage bans or recognition of marriage for same-sex couples since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that the federal government couldn’t define marriage as only between heterosexual couples. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to marry. In February, a federal judge ruled Virginia’s ban was unconstitutional, and that ruling is being appealed.

“The ban on marriage for same-sex couples does not protect children, but rather places unique and unwarranted burdens on children being raised by same-sex couples,” New York attorney Garrard R. Beeney wrote for the ACLU.

The ACLU has filed two lawsuits in federal court in Greensboro challenging the constitutional ban that North Carolina voters overwhelmingly approved in 2012. One, filed in July 2013, challenges the state law that prohibits adoptions by one partner in an unmarried relationship of the other partner’s child.

The other suit, filed in April, seeks recognition of marriage for three same-sex couples dealing with serious medical conditions and urges swift action by the courts. Observers say it appears the judge is waiting for the outcome of the case on appeal in Virginia.

A third federal lawsuit has been filed in federal court in Charlotte by the United Church of Christ, which claims the marriage ban prevents its clergy from practicing their religion.

The Family Research Council, which supported Virginia’s 2006 constitutional amendment barring gay marriage, says in a friend-of-the court brief that recognition of same-sex unions “would be detrimental to the institution of marriage, children and society as a whole,” The Associated Press reports.

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